20 years. Two whole decades of Turkeys. In fact, 174 films during those years. I started doing this little mini marathon back in 2003, on my own, as a way to celebrate the type of films that most critics would scoff at. Two years later, I was joined by my friend Aaron Christensen, who has never missed one since then. While it took a few years of it just being Aaron and I battling through these wonderful cinematic shipwrecks, by the time we got to 2010, the number of people joining us on this mad quest started to grow. We had 6 that year, increasing year by year to around a dozen each time. In 2010, we started our second annual event, Turkey Day in May, because there was just too much Turkey to do it only once a year! We did go online during the pandemic, where during those online adventures, we did get 20 to 25+ people watching online, so that was kind of cool. But it just wasn’t the same as being in the same room with other fans.
Before we get to the films, I wanted to send out a huge thanks to those that have attended my little crazy marathons. I started this because I wanted to give these movies the appreciation that I feel they deserve. As I’ve quoted many times before, the only bad movie is a boring one, and the ones we’ve screened over the last 20 years are far from boring. Well, okay, most of them weren’t. With every person that started attending, they not only understood that statement, but they believed 100% of it, and relished in the outrageous titles, sometimes just plain bat-shit crazy. Never making fun or shitting on these, we treat them with love and respect. My fellow Turkey Day attendees are more dedicated film lovers than any serious critic I know. Because we can see past the flaws of low budget, maybe with not the most talented cast, or a script that doesn’t seem possible that someone would not only want to film, but actually get it done with a straight face! For that, I am forever grateful to consider these fellow demented cinephiles my friends. They really know and understand what true cinema is.
As I reported a few days ago, on Saturday the 22nd, myself, along with Aaron Christensen, Dave Kosanke, and Gavin Schmitt, made the trip up to Merrill, Wisconsin for the Bill Rebane’s Hollywood Midwest: A Retrospective on Wisconsin’s First Feature Film Studio, an exhibit being held at the Merrill Historical Society, put on by Brandon Johnson. Because it opened at 9am and we wanted to be there right when it opened, it meant that I had to leave at 3am, drive into Chicago to pick up Aaron, then head north to pick up Dave, and then meet Gavin at the Museum as close to 9am as we could. We got there at 8:55am. Pretty good planning if I do say so myself!
This weekend, a few friends and I will be making a trip up to Merrill, Wisconsin, which is about a 5–6 hour drive for us. Why, may you ask? Because the Merrill Historical Society there is having a special Bill Rebane exhibit, which Mr. Rebane himself will be attending, possibly along with some other cast and crew from his films.
Bill Rebane, to those that don’t know, is probably most known for his film The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), but he had made quite a few other titles, such as The Alpha Incident, The Demons of Ludlow, Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake, and Blood Harvest, which even starred Tiny Tim. One of the things that set Rebane apart from most directors is that he made most of these films without leaving Wisconsin. In fact, in the town of Gleason, he created his own little film studio, called The Shooting Ranch, where he could film, edit, looping, everything else needed to make a film start to finish. Sure, some of his budgets were pretty low, but that doesn’t mean they are not entertaining.
There’s a lot of independent filmmakers out there, even ones that worked for decades, continuingly cranking out feature after feature. But there’s a selected few that went past that and actually created their own functioning movie studio way outside of Hollywood. There were people like Larry Buchanan in Texas or Earl Owensby in North Carolina. Then was Bill Rebane, who created the Shooting Ranch in Gleason, Wisconsin, which was a complete movie studio, from a post-production, recording studios, to even having lodging for the actors to stay, not to mention its own restaurant. This was Rebane’s way of keeping production costs down for his movies, if he could keep all the expenses low by providing them all within the studio. Smart man.
Compared to my movie-watching totals from last year, I really was slacking off! In 2020, I clocked in 422 titles! Not sure how I did that, but that really set the bar high for me from then on. But in 2021, I only got through 278 titles, but at least 160 of those were new viewings. My goal for this year is to hit at least 300, but we’ll see how that goes!
Below are the 10 films that I thought stood out amongst the rest and are definitely worth seeking out. These are listed in alphabetical order, and as always, these are all new viewings to me, so it doesn’t matter what year they actually came out. Enjoy!
If you would have told me 20 years ago, that filmmakers of the likes of Al Adamson, Andy Milligan, or William Grefé, were going to be getting a special box set of their films, I’d think you’re just plain nuts. But not only do those exist, we now have one coming on Wisconsin’s own Bill Rebane. Probably best known for his epic The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), he was one of these independent filmmakers that stayed away from Hollywood, making his own little version in Gleason, Wisconsin, producing films for over a 20-years. And now, thanks to Arrow Video, you’ll have the chance to witness 6 of these titles on Blu-ray in all new restorations in the Weird Wisconsin: The Bill Rebane Collection!
Now I will say that I have seen most of the films in this collection and while some are fun and entertaining in a low budget sort of way, one of them is barely watchable. In fact, back in the VHS days, I ended up watching it twice, under two different titles before I realized it. That film would be Invasion from Inner Earth, also released under the title simply as They. But you know what? I’ve already pre-ordered my set anyway! Because that is what we do as film fans. It is simply a way to look a little deeper and closer at someone’s work, maybe seeing it a different way. Not to mention there is so much bonus material in this collection that for me, it is simply a must have.Continue reading →
Back on our old site, there is probably close to a hundred different convention reports, or film fests, and whatnot. I used to post on those religiously, but after doing so many, it started to become tiresome because a lot of them started to sound the same. As well as some of the shows becoming more and more overpriced autograph shows, it was getting even hard to not be negative all the time. There are a ton of photos posted of many different celebrities that we’ve seen over the years. I thought about bringing them over to the new site, but haven’t completely decided on that just yet. But there are a few that I will be bringing over, such as this one, mainly because this is quite different than most of the conventions and film fests that I’ve been do over the last 20 years. Hope you enjoy!
I don’t remember the exact date, but it was early in 2005, but I remember calling my good friend Eric Ott with some exciting news. I had known Eric for maybe 10 years, and had never known anybody that was a bigger fan of the work on Wisconsin filmmaker Bill Rebane than him. Most notably for making The Giant Spider Invasion (1975), but Rebane had directed about 10 films throughout his career. Eric was always on the lookout for VHS tapes of his movies, as well as posters, and any other material from his work, even scoring some 16mm prints over the years. So when I read online that in Madison, Wisconsin, there was going to be an actual Bill Rebane Film Festival, and that Mr. Rebane himself was going to be there, I quickly called Eric to tell him that no matter what he had planned on May 7th, he was going to have to cancel it. Because we were going to make a road trip up to Madison for this.
Gods of Grindhouse BearManor Media, 2013. 169 pages. Edited by Andrew J. Rausch
I know everyone out there knows the name of Roger Corman. But what about Ted V. Mikels? Or Ray Dennis Steckler, Jack Hill, or Bill Rebane? These gentlemen, plus a few more, are the names covered in this very important book. The guys are from the filmmaking industry that I feel are much more important than the likes of Michael Bay. Why? Simple. There movies are something you will remember and will stand the test of time. Each generation will discover and be entertained by them. Without the talented craftsmen discussed in this volume, there would be no Quentin Tarentino. So while their movies may be the jest of places like MST3K, that doesn’t take away from what their films are about, as well as the people that struggled to get them made and distributed.
I know I preach over and over on this site about how important it is to know your history when it comes to the genres, but I wouldn’t keep saying it if I really didn’t believe it. So many younger filmmakers, such as the previous mentioned Tarantino, grew up watching the films from these guys, being inspired to make their own mark with their films. So yes, it is VERY important to know these guys and their work. And this book is a great way to start.
If you’ve heard of Bill Rebane, it is probably due to his movie 1975 epic The Giant Spider Invasion. But that is a good start if you haven’t heard of him. Rebane made quite a few lower budgeted films, all made in Wisconsin, usually at his Shooting Ranch Studio, a full fledge film production studio that not only made several feature films, but tons of commercials, industrial films, and much more.
Rebane arrived in the US in 1952 at the age of 15, coming from Estonia. While he speaks 5 languages, he learned to master the English language by watching American movies, which helped fuel his love for the cinema. He started his media career at WGN-TV in Chicago, working his way up from the mailroom to eventually executive producer.
In the late ’60s, he started his film ranch in Wisconsin which would be the first full-time feature film studio in the Midwest, which ran for over 30 years. During those years, he made such films as Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake (1975), The Alpha Incident (1978), The Capture of Bigfoot (1979), and The Demons of Ludlow (1983), and even a few more.
While his films might not be the best made films, they are usually entertaining, even if in a MST3K sort of way. And he made the most entertaining giant spider movie ever made! So for that fact alone, everyone should know and remember who Bill Rebane is.
Fifteen years. I can’t even fathom the idea that for the last one and a half decades, I’ve been spending my Black Friday sitting in front of my TV watching some of the finest is cinematic shipwrecks. But even better, for most of those years, I have been watching them with some great friends, which makes the experience even better. Including this year’s titles, we’ve “experience” over a hundred titles in those fifteen years. And I do mean “experience”, because some titles it is so much more than just watching. Sitting there with a bunch of like minded crazy cinephiles, really does make it an “experience”. This year, there was moments when the laughing was so loud and hard, that I actually feared for some of the sanity in the room!